‘We have a sincere shot to take it all the way’
LARAMIE -- Raise your hand if you thought Wyoming would be leading the Mountain Division after five games.
Break your right arm patting yourself on the back if you had the UNLV Rebels atop the West side of the bracket. You deserve it -- or you're a liar.
Either way, as the calendar flips to October, that scenario above is currently a reality.
You might recall, Boise State, a program that for the past decade has been the preseason favorite, and Jake Haener and the Fresno State Bulldogs, were supposed to run away with this Mountain West Conference race. Air Force and San Diego State were also a pair of sleeper picks.
Those teams could still be the last ones standing in December, but the door is cracked.
That's part of the reason Wyoming players were still filled with optimism last Saturday night despite falling to No. 19 BYU 38-24 just minutes prior to their trip to the postgame podium.
"I think the conference is a little different this year," said UW quarterback Andrew Peasley, who completed 14-of-27 throws for 154 yards and two touchdowns in the loss to the Cougars. "You know, the teams that were at the top aren't really at the top anymore, so I think there's a lot of opportunity for us to continue to improve and keep winning. I know we just lost to the No. 19-ranked team -- and they're solid -- but it's conference now and I think we have a sincere shot to take it all the way."
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The biggest surprise of this early season is the fact that Peasley's former team is 1-3 overall and coming off a 34-24 setback to those upstart Rebels. Utah State, the defending Mountain West Champions, is reeling. That loss in Logan is the team's second straight inside Maverik Stadium. The Aggies also lost to FCS foe Weber State 35-7 a week prior.
UTEP stunned Boise State 27-10 last Friday night in El Paso. Bronco quarterback Hank Bachmeier has decided to sit out the rest of the season and will enter the NCAA Transfer Portal on Dec. 6, the unofficial start of "free agency." That news came in the wake of the school firing offensive coordinator Tim Pough after another dismal showing inside the Sun Bowl.
Wyoming is already 1-0 in league play. That came courtesy of a 17-14 win over Air Force on Sept. 16 in Laramie. Just when it looked like the Falcons would literally run through the conference -- they averaged more than 508 rushing yards per game through two weeks -- Cole Godbout and his buddies held the visitors to just 171 yards on the ground in the upset.
One of those friends, fellow defensive tackle Jordan Bertagnole, said the postgame chatter inside the bowels of LaVell Edwards Stadium didn't revolve around the loss to BYU, but instead what lies ahead.
"We're super excited," said the sophomore from Casper, who tallied seven tackles in Provo. "That's what we were talking about in the locker room is, I mean, we're on to conference play. We're on to bigger things. We just have to get moving and just learn from the mistakes that we made in this one, correct them and then go back for the game next week."
The Cowboys (3-2, 1-0) will host San Jose State (2-1) Saturday night. Kickoff is scheduled for 5:30 p.m. Mountain Time. The Spartans, who claimed the conference crown during the COVID-19-shortened 2020 campaign, enter this one with a 2-1 record. They are coming off a 34-6 thrashing of visiting Western Michigan.
Craig Bohl is steadfast about this team's motto: "1-0." So, Wyoming's ninth-year head coach might not know if the Pokes can get past the Spartans this week, the next four opponents -- New Mexico, Utah State, Hawaii and Colorado State -- have a current combined record of 4-13.
"We're going to keep trucking," he said.
Peasley was a tad more candid with his answer.
"You know, after the game my first thing was, let's go win this conference because everyone wants it real bad," he said. "We all care more than anything you know. We're all in there preparing. There's a lot of opportunity for us and, you know, we've been called young, and being a new guy, like, people don't know but I'm coming into this and I want to win. So, I think we have that opportunity to do so."
MOUNTAIN WEST STANDINGS:
Wyoming: 3-2, 1-0
Boise State: 2-2, 1-0
Air Force: 3-1, 1-1
Colorado State: 0-4, 0-0
New Mexico: 2-2, 0-1
Utah State: 1-3, 0-1
UNLV: 3-1, 1-0
San Jose State: 2-1, 0-0
San Diego State: 2-2, 0-0
Fresno State: 1-2, 0-0
Hawaii: 1-4, 0-0
Nevada: 2-3, 0-1